Sunday, May 30, 2010

Vook You!!!??

That's my chair. My One Enormous Chair. You know the one, "Oh wouldn't it be loverly," chair. It kinda symbolizes how I like to read. I'm not always in that chair. Sometimes I'm in a pile of pillows on the bed, or on the sofa, or my new swoop chaise, or in a deck chair on a cruise...with a book, cosy and comfortable. When people have discussions about whether they like to read the book or see the movie first, some don't care one way or another. Some prefer the movie first. I prefer the book. The book lets me paint the scenes in my head, and usually gives me a more complete story. Sometimes the movie makes clear the things I didn't understand until I got to the last page of the book. You know when you get to the last page of a Toni Morrison novel, and you think, "OOOOH, so that's what that was about." The movie can save me from having to read that book again. I still have it on my list to read "Paradise" again. I don't see a movie forthcoming.

I'm a geek at heart, but I still love to feel the pages of a book. I'm starting to wrap my brain around the idea of an ebook. I don't have an eReader yet, but I'm working on it. (Kindle: hint! hint!) Bear with me, I'm working up to the vook thing.

When I first learned that my favorite author, Tananarive Due, and her husband, screen-writer Steven Barnes were collaborating with one of my all-time favorite hotties, Blair Underwood on a mystery book, I thought it would be a great idea. It took me a while to get on-board and buy "Casanegra," and by then they had published the second book in the series, "In the Night of the Heat." After reading, "Heat" I became a true fan, and bought Casanegra as well. They are both page-turners, but I liked "Heat" more. There was less of the "Die Hard" (You know how Bruce Willis is so beat up by the end of the movie, you wonder if he will live.) and more of the Walter Mosley, "Easy Rawlins' transported to the twenty-first Century. The third book in the Tennyson Hardwick series, "From Cape Town with Love" just hit the stores in May. I bought it and convinced my book club to make it our selection for the next meeting.

Since I'm a Facebook fan of (I "like") Blair Underwood, I get his promotional messages on my Facebook home page. He is now promoting the VOOK for the latest Tennyson Hardwick book. That's Vook as in Video-Book. I went to, clicked on the link for Blair Underwood, and got the sneak peek. I don't know if I want this. OK, it's enough that Blair is on the cover of the novels (" Blair Underwood Presents"), as the character Tennyson Hardwick. I'm OK with that. I have Blair in my head as Tennyson. But I had already visualized Chela and April and Dad in "Heat," only to add a different layer in Casanegra, so that in my mind April looked like Tananarive Due, not Taraji P. I'm not ready to see the movie at the same time that I'm reading the book. I feel like you're messing with my head, and even making casting decisions that may be changed when (not if) the book makes it to the big screen.

I'm all about expanding your audience, but it feels like dumbing down a good novel by adding video. And it raises the question of what is Blair's role in the collaboration. The copyright says "Copyright (c) 2010 by Trabajando, Inc., Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes." Is it Blair's role to get the book to the silver screen?

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Just Wright"

One "guy movie" deserves a "Chick flick." We saw Iron Man 2 last week, so this week it was my turn. Everybody loves Queen Latifah, even hubby who doesn't like rap. I didn't tell him until we were leaving the theater that Common is my favorite rap artist. The only rap CD I ever bought was "Be." Besides I like it when the authors of "Explicit Content" can get a PG rating for their movie.

If you saw the previews, you know what happens in "Just Wright." There were no surprises, except maybe Paula Patton's dumbing down. But she was convincing. Can somebody tell me what is a "god sister?"

Hubby liked the basketball scenes...lots of NBA players being themselves. I always like it when the big girl gets her man. Queen was her usual fun and sassy self.

The story dragged in spots....OK let's get to the part where she gets her man. But it was fun to watch. I give it two and a half stars.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Bucket list item: Figure out Medicare

This is my year to go on Medicare. You would think that since I'm the youngest of seven siblings, I might benefit from my older siblings' knowledge of Medicare, but no. Something changes every year, and each of my siblings has had a different set of circumstances going in. Some Federal employees, some veterans, various combinations of health or prescription requirements. I'm having to figure out mine on my own.

The thing that is somewhat distressing is having to make decisions that will impact my health for years to come, at a point in my life when it is increasingly difficult to sort out all the "Parts" of Medicare. Fortunately, North Carolina and many States have agencies whose sole purpose in life is to help Seniors sort through the alphabet soup of Medicare. In NC it's called SHIIP, Seniors' Helath Insurance Information Program. They were the first ones I called. I told them that I retired from the State Government, and they told me Medicare would pay 80% of my health claims, and then the State would kick in. My coverage with the State would be 80% of the remainder. Then they reminded me that I would have to pay the State deductible first....currently $600 per year, plus co-insurance if applicable....HUH?

So I started digging through my handy "Official Government Handbook" on Medicare. They really ought to get some 70-year-olds to review the language in that thing. There's Part A, that many people get "Premium free," unless you're one of the people who has to pay for it. (What?)

"If you choose to buy Part A, you must also have Part B and pay monthly premiums for both." (Didn't I hear a bunch of tea party folks complaining being forced to pay for health insurance under the Obama plan?) I started wondering if you could opt out of Medicare...maybe if you're healthy you could wait until you get older and have more health costs. Nope, Nope, Nope.

"If you don't buy Part A when you're first eligible, your monthly premium may go up 10%. You will have to pay the higher premium for twice the number of years you could have had Part A but didn't join." GEEZ!! Why didn't my hubby tell me all this when he signed up. Well, hubby is a Federal retiree who came along during the Reagan years when Federal employees were not under Social Security. He wasn't even sure if he would be covered by Medicare. He is, and he is also covered by the same health plan he had when he worked. He had to change providers when he moved to North Carolina, but he still has the same coverage. He doesn't have to get into the alphabet soup.

So anyway, I started digging into the handbook to see if I could get some relief from that $600 deductible and co-insurance, and read about Parts A through D. I'm still trying to figure out if the Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C) will help me. The good people at SHIIP told me that my State Insurance would continue to cover my prescription drugs, so I don't need Part D. (The only good thing so far) I tried calling AARP, since they sent me their brochure of Medicare supplement plans. Plans A through D (not to be confused with Parts A through D) and plans E through J. The AARP person said I could not get a supplement since I already have the State plan as a supplement; that would make me over-insured. I could drop the State plan, but then I would lose the prescription drug coverage (no premium) and would have to get a Part D.

OH LAWD!! I'm going to have to call somebody to talk me through Medicare Advantage. Meanwhile the vultures are calling. The list of people turning 65 must be on a hot bulletin board somewhere. I have an appointment with my State Farm guy tomorrow to talk about home and car coverage. He'll probably bring out the Medicare kit.

Getting old sucks!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Iron Man 2

Hammercy. I thought I had fallen into a testosterone pit. We went to the 12:30 showing. (After the 12:00, and before the 1:00, 1:30, 3:00, 3:30....) I think I was one of five women in the theater. First we had to see the previews of coming guy movies, "The A-Team," "Prince of Persia," "Robin Hood." Shrek got in there too, and next year's Spielberg movie. After all that action, the guys were really stoked. (Where do all these guys come from for a matinee on a Friday? I heard one say, "one of the advantages of being self-employed")

If you saw the first Iron Man, this one is more of the same, but more action, more villains, even Mickey Rourke as a Russian Physicist. And Samuel L Jackson is back. I'll have to update my Sam Jackson hair chart. This time he's bald with an eye patch. Robert Downey Jr as himself, same self-indulgent playboy, with the same arrogant sexual innuendos. Good guy fun. His side-kick "Rhodey" is played by Don Cheadle this time, taking over Terrence Howard's role - because, you know, they look so much alike. (stole that line from our local critic, Craig Lindsey, click here.)

I enjoyed it. I caught a snooze in there when they went into too much techno-babble. I give it three stars.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Amazon vs North Carolina

We all know State governments are hurting for revenue these days. I can't blame them for looking for some Mother-Lode of unpaid taxes. Those of us who shop online know the major online retailers who don't also have a brick and mortar store somewhere usually let us off without charging sales taxes. Amazon is very likely the biggest fish out there. I have shopped on Amazon for over 10 years. (Yikes!) And now time is coming to pay up.

Amazon has already provided the NC Department of Revenue the list of customers and what they paid Amazon since 2003. I shop frequently on Amazon, and I have no problem with that. I expect they will send me a bill for back sales taxes. The books and assorted stuff that I have bought wouldn't surprise anybody reading this, and would not raise any eyebrows anywhere.

The flak around the internet is about a potential witch-hunt by every state needing additional tax funds, and the violation of First Amendment rights by any State seeking a list of the items purchased by every Amazon customer living in the State. So Amazon is suing to keep that list of items private.

I haven't seen any article that mentions the issue of public information. I won't claim to be an expert on the Public Information Laws, but my prior responsibility as custodian of data within the State of NC tells me that any data collected by any State agency, unless it is exempt by law (Health records, certain personnel records, and a few other exemptions), is public information.

Even before every agency had a website for delivery of commonly requested public information, they had to deliver, or provide to anybody who made a proper request. The requester might have to pay a fee to cover the cost of collection and delivery, but if it's public, any John or Jane Doe (or more likely News Reporter) could ask and expect to receive. In an election year you can count on the local News and Disturber doing an Exposé of certain elected or appointed officials based on public information such as telephone calls and trip expense reports. Now the DOR wants to collect more information about the citizenry's buying habits even when bought with personal funds and used on personal time. Let's many prospective Grand Jury members purchased "The Politician," the John Edwards exposé.

When the DOR sends me the bill for back sales tax, they don't have to cross-reference what I bought. I can look at my Amazon order history and confirm my own purchases for myself. OOPS, I just checked....there goes my 2009 tax refund, they haven't sent me yet.